Rick Scott Archives - Florida Politics

Florida Dem chair condemns Richard Spencer, slams Rick Scott as ‘unfit to lead’

Ahead of white nationalist Richard Spencer‘s speech in Gainesville Thursday, Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel issued a lengthy statement condemning the “neo-Nazi.”

While Bittel was at it, he castigated Gov. Rick Scott for failing to condemn President Donald Trump and his “stunning lack of moral leadership,” adding that any politician who failed to offer such condemnation is “unfit to lead” Florida.

“Politics is seldom ever so clear cut, but this is truly a moment of moral clarity. Richard Spencer is a neo-Nazi, and his supporters are neo-Nazis. These are the same white supremacists that descended on Charlottesville, armed to the teeth, and looking for a fight. An innocent woman was murdered because of these people. Make no mistake, they are coming to incite violence,” Bittel wrote Wednesday morning.

“The ideology of Spencer and his supporters directly attacks the mere existence of so many who call our state home—black, Hispanic, Jewish, LGBT—when any group of Americans are under attack, it is incumbent upon us all to treat it as an attack against every American,” Bittel added.

Bittel then pivoted to a reminder that, in the wake of the Charlottesville violence, President Donald Trump referred to those forces aligned in favor of Confederate monuments as “fine people.”

“And contrary to what Donald Trump would have you believe, the violent white supremacists and hatemongers invading Gainesville this Thursday are not ‘fine people’. Any politician who fails to challenge our President for his stunning lack of moral leadership—our governor chief among them—is unfit to lead a state as diverse as Florida,” Bittel added.

White supremacy is an evil we cannot ignore. When leaders like our governor fail to challenge the President for embracing white supremacists, it becomes all the more urgent that the rest of us speak out—clearly, unequivocally, and loudly. We must let it be known that we reject hatred in all its forms,” Bittel continued.

While Gov. Scott declared a state of emergency ahead of the event, he stopped short of taking President Trump to task for his reaction to Charlottesville.

Per the Orlando Sentinel from August: “I’m not going to parse the president’s words, but here’s what I’ll say: It’s evil. It’s horrible. I don’t believe in racism, I don’t believe in bigotry,” Scott said. “I believe that the KKK, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, they don’t belong in our society.”

Scott’s team provided a response Wednesday morning, via John Tupps, Communications Director.

“Gov. Scott has been clear in condemning bigotry and hatred of any kind. He’s 100 percent focused on public safety and making sure that local law enforcement has the support they need.”

State targets pharmaceutical company in stock case

In a rare move, Florida is considering taking on a large pharmaceutical company, alleging the state’s pension fund lost some $127 million in stock value because of federal security violations by the company.

The State Board of Administration, which includes Gov. Rick Scott and two Cabinet members, will decide next month whether to hire a New York-based law firm to pursue a “direct action” case against Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., rather than joining a class-action lawsuit against the company.

Valeant has been accused of violating federal securities regulations by marking up drug prices and then selling the drugs through a pharmacy network, without disclosing the full scope of the transactions to the stockholders.

“In my view, if the SBA files a direct action, the SBA may be able to enhance its recovery above the class action recovery by double-digit millions of dollars,” Ash Williams, head of the State Board of Administration, said in a memorandum to Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi and state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who also serve on the board.

Williams had recommended that the State Board of Administration hire the firm Bernstein Litowitz Berger and Grossmann to handle the Valeant lawsuit, which would be filed in federal court in New Jersey, where the company has its U.S. headquarters.

But Bondi on Tuesday asked for the decision to be delayed until next month while she reviews law firms that could handle the case. She said she did not disagree with the decision to file the suit but wanted to look at potential law firms “in a little more detail.”

In a report to the state, Bernstein Litowitz said Florida’s $154 billion pension fund “incurred significant damages as a result of the fraudulent misrepresentations at Valeant.” The law firm identified $127 million in “potential recoverable damages,” based on Valeant stock transactions between January 2013 and August 2016.

In a review of records at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the law firm said the Florida losses were “among the largest of any public fund investor.”

About $17 million of the Valeant transactions were on the Canadian stock exchange, which is not expected to be the focus of the lawsuit.

In an indication of how much Florida might recover from the litigation, Bernstein Litowitz said it recovered 37.5 percent of investors’ estimated damages in a securities lawsuit against the Cendant Corp. and 18.5 percent of investors’ claims against the Biovail Corp.

Both were class-action lawsuits and Bernstein Litowitz noted it “has achieved substantially higher recovery percentages when selectively representing prominent institutional investors (including the SBA) in direct actions.”

Williams said the state “very rarely” opts out of class-action lawsuits in favor of direct action claims. But he said the state pension fund has a clear set of guidelines that allows for direct claims, including cases of “egregious” behavior and where Florida wants to “make a statement for the benefit of the markets, that we don’t like this kind of thing and we’re not going to take it.”

In its report, Bernstein Litowitz said Florida’s lawsuit would allow the state to hold Valeant accountable for losses and also provide a forum “to insist on meaningful corporate governance reforms as an important component of any direct resolution with the company.”

“Given Valeant’s prominence in the pharmaceutical industry and the impact its practices have had on a strained American healthcare system, any corporate reforms achieved through this matter should have a lasting and meaningful impact,” the law firm said.

Valeant is facing numerous lawsuits, including an $80 billion claim filed in August by Lord Abbett & Co., a mutual fund company.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz again questions Rick Scott on debris removal


Debbie Wasserman Schultz is again pressing Gov. Rick Scott on his decisions about debris removal in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

The South Florida Democrat says she was already perplexed about why the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) refused to submit to FEMA local requests for full reimbursement. The local communities were forced to pay higher rates when other debris removal companies refused to honor lower rate contracts entered into before the storm, she said.

Now, Wasserman Schultz writes in a letter to Scott, she is “dumbfounded” to hear reports of the Governor’s office entering into contracts for debris removal in Monroe County at costs far higher than those pre-storm negotiated rates.

“Communities throughout Florida deserve an explanation, they deserve to have their debris removed expeditiously, and they deserve assurance that they will not be taken advantage of by those seeking to gain windfalls from the suffering of others — windfalls that reportedly your administration is unnecessarily paying,” writes Wasserman Schultz, who represents Florida’s 26th Congressional District.

Co-signing the letter were five other Democrats in Florida’s congressional delegation: Tampa’s Kathy Castor, South Florida’s Alcee Hastings and Fredericka Wilson, and Orlando-area freshmen Val Demings and Darren Soto.

There have been widespread complaints around the state about the delays in picking up debris after Irma barreled through the state last month.

In several cases, debris cleaning companies — mostly in North and Central Florida — bolted communities where they had existing contracts with local governments, leaving them for other jurisdictions where they could make more money.

It is the second time in the past week Wasserman Schultz questioned Scott about his handling of debris removal. Last Wednesday, the two got into a spirited exchange after the Broward/Miami-Dade-area congresswoman said Scott deserves some of the blame for the piles of debris remaining in front of homes throughout Florida.

At that meeting, Scott dismissed her complaints, saying that he was looking out for taxpayers by refusing to go along with paying much higher rates to companies that don’t live up to their agreements.

“I’m always going to stand on the side of taxpayers and consumers,” he told the delegation, “not on the side of somebody who wants to make extra money after a disaster.”

Wasserman Schultz also complained to Scott during the meeting that her office contacted his D.C. office several times by phone and email, to no avail.

Scott said he had no evidence that the congresswoman had tried to contact him.

Early Tuesday evening, a spokesperson for Scott strongly push backed on the Democrats complaints.

“After the storm, the Governor heard from many local communities, including Monroe County, that many of these companies were not providing the agreed upon service and were demanding higher prices. This is unacceptable,” said spokesperson Lauren Schenone.

“Monroe County asked for additional help to pick up debris following the storm. FDOT went above and beyond the requirements of Florida law and bid the contract to supplement their debris removal. Any other suggestion is falseGovernor Scott will continue to fight for consumers – not businesses who attempted to take advantage of their communities after this massive and deadly storm.”


Aubrey Shines: Florida’s minority businesses need tax cuts most

As Congress prepares to cut taxes, our nation’s job creators have high hopes for the economy.

The Republican tax plan cuts the federal small business tax rate from nearly 40 percent to a much fairer 25 percent. Under the current tax code, the overwhelming majority of small businesses (95 percent) are considered “pass-through” entities, which means their owners are taxed at the highest individual marginal tax rate. The federal pass-through tax rate stands at 39.6 percent, while state and local taxes often bring the small business tax burden to 50 percent.

This is not only unacceptable, but destructive to job creation, business expansion and America’s economic activity. The U.S. tax system hasn’t been changed since the 1980s, when Democrats and Republicans banded together for the common good. Pro-growth tax relief is long overdue, and Washington, D.C. has no excuse not to get the job done.

Just imagine the economic impact of tax cuts. I’m a pastor in the great state of Florida, where there are 2.3 million small businesses, employing over 3 million workers — roughly half of Florida’s workforce. In my state, small business accounts for more than 95 percent of all exports. Nationwide, there are nearly 30 million small businesses, employing about 60 million workers. And small business generates over $470 billion in exports every year.

As the founder of G2G Ministries, Inc. just outside Tampa, I know the tremendous value of small businesses. When they succeed, America succeeds. Lower taxes would leave small-business owners with more of their hard-earned money, allowing them to reinvest in their businesses and local communities. They could hire new employees, raise wages and lift millions of people up the career ladder.

This is especially true for America’s minority entrepreneurs and the people they serve. In Florida, there are nearly 930,000 minority-owned businesses, which make up almost half of the state’s small businesses.

Nationwide, their impact is even more profound. According to the most recent data, America is home to 8 million minority-owned businesses. And minority business ownership is on the rise: From 2007 to 2012, minorities increased their share of overall business ownership from 22 percent to nearly 30 percent — an inspiring increase. All in all, minority business owners contribute more than $1 trillion in revenue and 7.2 million jobs.

Our government needs to reward these life-changing entrepreneurs with a tax code that helps them help others, rather than impeding them at every turn. For too long, our nation’s most devoted job creators have been overburdened by the heavy hand of Big Government. When that burden is removed, small-business owners — minorities and others — will guide us to economic prosperity more passionately than ever before. This prosperity will stretch from our inner cities to our farmland and beyond.

It’s time to try something new. Since the Great Recession, the U.S. economy has only averaged a few percentage points of growth. Jobs are not being created as often they could be.

This is a matter of right or wrong. When job creators struggle, their employees struggle. Will Uncle Sam keep erecting barriers on the road to professional development? Will Uncle Sam continue blocking Americans as they climb the career ladder? Or will our government — of, by and for the people — help them climb to unprecedented heights?

My state is a shining example of good government. Earlier this year, Gov. Rick Scott signed a $180 million tax cut package to help small businesses grow. The new law cut taxes charged on business rent, saving our state’s small businesses more than $60 million a year. Job creation and business expansion will surely follow.

And now it’s time for the federal government to follow suit. Cut taxes. Help small businesses.

Congress, our economy is in your hands. Do the right thing for your constituents.


Pastor Aubrey Shines is the founder of G2G Ministries, Inc. in Florida.

More variances sought on nursing home generators

At least 21 more long-term care providers have filed requests for variances with the state Agency for Health Care Administration as they seek additional time to comply with Gov. Rick Scott‘s mandate that they add generators that can power air-conditioning systems.

The latest requests were published Monday in the Florida Administrative Register and are in addition to 33 requests for variances published last week. Scott’s administration issued emergency generator rules in September for nursing homes and assisted living facilities after eight residents of a sweltering Broward County nursing home died. Six more residents died later after being evacuated.

Hurricane Irma knocked out the air conditioning at the nursing home, The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, which did not have a backup generator for the cooling system.

Long-term care facilities are seeking the variances because a Nov. 15 compliance deadline is nearing, and facilities that aren’t in compliance face steep penalties, including possible license revocation.

Florida law allows variances, saying that the “strict application of uniformly applicable rule requirements can lead to unreasonable, unfair, and unintended results” and, as a result, agencies are authorized to grant variances and waivers to rules that cause a substantial hardship.

To clarify the process, the Scott administration last week issued another emergency rule that, in part, laid out information the Agency for Health Care Administration wants providers to include in the requests for variances. Meanwhile, three industry groups have challenged the rules in the state Division of Administrative Hearings.

A judge is expected to issue a decision within two weeks.

Pinellas emergency manager has issue with Rick Scott’s emergency generator rule

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities aren’t the only entities who have an issue with Governor Rick Scott’s declaration that they must have generators that can power air-conditioning systems installed by next month.

Sally Bishop, director of Pinellas County’s emergency management department, told state legislators Monday that there is an unintended consequence to Scott’s emergency declaration: health care facilities canceling their agreements with other counties that offer shelter to evacuating facilities.

“We’re finding that the sheltering facilities are canceling those agreements with the evacuating facilities because of their concerns on being able to meet the requirements of the new generator rules,” Bishop told members of the Tampa Bay Area Legislative Delegation at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.

Scott’s emergency rules announced on September 16 gave the nursing homes and assisted living facilities 60 days to install generators. It came just days after eight residents of a Broward County nursing home died after losing air conditioning because of Hurricane Irma. Six more residents later died.

Bishop said she already has a problem in having enough shelters ready to house evacuees when the next hurricane threatens the region. She says new storm surge data with accompanying flood evacuation zones leave her with 170 evacuating facilities and only 125 receiving facilities.

That could lead to evacuees having to go to another county — which is unlikely because there won’t be available transportation, she says.

“I’m very concerned about not only do I have an issue with more evacuating than receiving facilities, but I’m finding that receiving facilities are going to start canceling agreements with evacuating facilities, which really leaves me and all other emergency management entities in the same boat,” Bishop contended.

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities estimate it will cost $350,000 to install large enough generators to provide air conditioning for a 120-bed nursing home.

Bishop said that those shared agreements between health care facilities have been going on for more than 30 years.

State Rep. Wengay Newton, a Democrat from St. Petersburg, asked Bishop about reports that some people who were “diaper-dependent” were turned away from shelters with special needs.

Bishop said that there were definitely problems with communications between health care officials and those running the shelters, something that she says has to be addressed going forward.

House Minority Leader Janet Cruz from Tampa said she received complaints from some constituents who were turned away from animal-friendly shelters because they didn’t have shot records of their dogs. Cruz said in comparison, she stayed at a hotel during the storm and saw plenty of people with pets who didn’t get questioned about their medical records.

Bishop said that it’s not good to mix pets who are without proper vaccinations, “or you end up with a lot of sick pets after the fact.” She said that nobody with a pet was turned away from animal shelters in Pinellas, but it varied from county to county.

“I think there was a disconnect,” Cruz said, adding that she didn’t want to see that situation happen again.

Officials from the Florida Public Service Commission, Port Tampa Bay and the Florida Petroleum Association, and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri also spoke to the delegation about what they went through during the storm and lessons learned from it.

An industry group has filed a legal challenge to Scott’s emergency rule requiring generators for nursing homes and assisted living facilities. In the legal challenge, LeadingAge Florida said penalties for failing to comply with the generator requirements could include revoking the licenses of nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Farmers may get loans to help with Irma damage

Florida farmers in 44 counties may be eligible for federal loans to help cover damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced.

Still, Florida might have to wait months for broader federal assistance to the agriculture industry, which sustained more than $2.5 billion in losses from the storm.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue notified Gov. Rick Scott on Friday that the federal agency determined that Florida had sufficient production loss to warrant a “secretarial natural disaster designation” for most of the peninsula.

The designation makes farmers eligible to be considered for Farm Service Agency programs, including emergency loans, Perdue wrote in a letter to Scott. Farmers have eight months to apply for the loans.

“FSA considers each emergency loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of production losses on the farm and the security and repayment ability of the operator,” Perdue wrote.

The federal designation names 19 counties as “primary” natural disaster areas and 25 as being in “contiguous” counties. Farmers in primary and contiguous counties are eligible to apply for loans.

The state on Sept. 28 had requested the primary designation for 19 counties. Irma made landfall in Monroe and Collier counties on Sept. 10 and then barreled up the state.

Under Perdue’s designations, the primary counties are Alachua, Bradford, Broward, Charlotte, Collier, Gilchrist, Glades, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Lee, Marion, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Osceola, Palm Beach and Sumter.

The “contiguous” counties are Baker, Brevard, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, DeSoto, Dixie, Hardee, Hernando, Lafayette, Levy, Manatee, Martin, Okeechobee, Orange, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, St. Lucie, Sarasota, Seminole, Suwannee, Union and Volusia.

A preliminary report from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services released Oct. 4 estimated that citrus industry losses from the storm approached $761 million. The state’s vegetable, nursery, cattle, dairy, sugar, non-citrus fruit and timber crops all were impacted by the massive storm.

In a statement Friday about the federal designations, state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said, “it’s important to recognize that the damage is still unfolding.

“By making more federal help available, combined with our Florida Citrus Emergency Loan Program, we are giving farmers a way to immediately address the losses they incurred during Hurricane Irma,” Scott said in a prepared statement.

Scott has authorized a $25 million interest-free loan program for citrus farmers.

The federal designation also came as Florida officials have turned their attention to the U.S. Senate, which this week is expected to take up a $36.5 billion disaster-relief package directed at hurricane damage in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico and the ongoing wildfires in California. The money doesn’t include agricultural assistance for Florida.

The House on Thursday did not attach a measure to its relief package to cover losses incurred across Florida’s agricultural landscape. The measure was proposed by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, a Republican whose district covers rural lands northwest of Lake Okeechobee.

Putnam, a former congressman who is running for governor, told reporters Thursday that the federal assistance may not be available until early next year if the Florida agricultural funding isn’t added to the current relief package.

“If we’re not in that one, it could be as late as mid-December before the next one moves,” Putnam said “And then when you back that up from how long it would take to implement a program to get assistance out the door you’re looking at well into the first quarter of next year before growers are seeing any relief.”

Putnam, expressing concerns that foreign growers could make inroads into Florida, criticized the “traditional” disaster relief programs as “wholly inadequate.”

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Rick Scott’s political committee added $75K in September

Gov. Rick Scott’s Let’s Get to Work committee added $75,000 in contributions last month after showing just $1,000 raised in August.

The committee supported Scott’s successful re-election campaign for governor and could be back in action soon as a pot of money backing his probable campaign to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson next year.

The September money came in through just two contributions, one for $50,000 from the Florida Retail Federation’s political committee, and another from $25,000 from Tampa-based check cashing company Amscot Financial.

Both donors have a bit of a history supporting Scott’s committee.

FRF Political Committee gave Let’s Get to Work $25,000 in August 2016, while Amscot had given the committee $125,000 across four major contributions since 2014 before chipping in last month.

Let’s Get to Work’s income was offset by $66,873 in spending, with a good deal of the money heading to Maryland-based political consulting and advertising firm On Message.

The group, which took in about $21,000 last month for media production and consulting, has been Scott’s favored shop for such services for a while and has received millions of dollars from the Let’s Get to Work committee and well as the ECO of the same name that preceded it.

Grassroots Targeting picked up $15,000 for data services and Tallahassee-based ContributionLink picked up $8,000 for database services. Most of the rest of the September spending went toward various political and fundraising consultants.

With September in the books, Scott’s committee has nearly $2.8 million on hand.

$50 million sought to tackle opioid epidemic

Skyrocketing numbers of overdoses. Burned-out first responders. Families torn apart.

Those are just some of the woes a key Senate budget panel heard about during a discussion Thursday focused on the opioid epidemic engulfing Florida and much of the nation.

Echoing what a separate Senate committee heard this week, substance-abuse treatment providers, community agency representatives and law-enforcement officials pleaded with the Senate Appropriations Committee for a comprehensive approach to the complicated issue, along with more money.

The state this year received $27 million in federal funds to deal with a mushrooming opioid crisis that has resulted in some counties seeing a 300 percent increase in overdoses.

Gov. Rick Scott – who declared a public health emergency about the opioid issue this year – announced that he will seek $50 million from the Legislature to deal with the issue, but he has yet to release a detailed plan for how the money would be spent.

Substance-abuse treatment providers on Thursday also asked for $50 million to address what at least one doctor called “chemical warfare” as lawmakers begin to put together a state spending plan in advance of the 2018 legislative session, which begins in January.

The number of Floridians dying from overdoses – involving prescription drugs, street drugs like heroin or the synthetic opioid fentanyl, or combinations of the drugs – has steadily increased over the last few years, following a dip after lawmakers cracked down on prescription drug “pill mills” in 2011.

Heroin overdoses jumped by 1,000 percent between 2007 and 2015, and most experts agree the number of deaths is much higher than what is being reported by the state’s medical examiners.

Overdoses related to fentanyl, which is often mixed with heroin, are also climbing.

The information about the rising number of deaths associated with opioids is perplexing for lawmakers who thought they stymied the state’s opioid plague by shutting down the pill mills.

“My concern as a policymaker is, how do we make sure we don’t do the same thing … because if not, then three years from now, instead of saying fentanyl and heroin, there it will say something else,” said Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, referring to a chart of deaths due to overdoses. “I don’t want to see fentanyl and heroin in three years just turn into x, y, z.”

Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford offered a suggestion.

“One of the answers is going to be the investment in treatment resources,” he said.

“I think that’s the ultimate point. How do we get to the root of the problem? Is it a mental health issue? We gave it a Band-aid, but the underlying (root) is still there,” Flores said.

While the picture appears grim, Ann Berner, CEO of the Southeast Florida Behavioral Network, told the committee that the state can “turn the tides” on the opioid epidemic.

The $50 million sought by providers to address the issue would go toward housing vouchers and employment assistance for people in recovery, medication-assisted treatment programs that use drugs like Suboxone to help keep addicts off opioids such as OxyContin and heroin, residential treatment and detox beds, which are a critical first step in getting users clean.

The request for the funds comes as lawmakers begin to grapple with what will certainly be a tight budget year, made even leaner because of the impacts of Hurricane Irma.

Senate budget chief Jack Latvala wouldn’t say if $50 million is enough to combat the state’s opioid crisis.

“We just started working on this. This is the very first meeting of committees, very first meeting that this has been discussed. We have a lot of work to do before we can make opinions like that,” Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who is running for governor, told reporters after the meeting.

Latvala has made battling opioid addiction one of his top priorities, and asked Scott to use executive authority to release $20 million in emergency funds for the problem. Scott recently activated a $25 million emergency loan program for the citrus industry, which was devastated by Hurricane Irma.

“I asked for $20 million on an emergency basis to get us through the rest of this year. I’m still waiting. People are still dying. Nobody’s dying because oranges fell off of a tree,” Latvala said.

He again called on Scott to release the money.

“I think we need to treat the opioid crisis just like we’re treating the economic crisis from the hurricane. He (Scott) has the same ability on the opioid crisis to deal with that through the executive order as he has on the hurricane,” Latvala said.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Nursing homes seek variances from generator requirement

As industry attorneys waged a legal battle over new rules that require nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have generators that can power air-conditioning systems, providers worried that they cannot meet the mandate by Nov. 15 are asking for variances from the rules.

Thirty-three providers requested variances Wednesday and Thursday, a review of state documents shows.

And that’s just beginning, said Florida Health Care Association spokeswoman Kristen Knapp.

“Wait until next week,” said Knapp, whose association represents hundreds of nursing homes. “I suspect you are going to see a lot more.”

Gov. Rick Scott‘s administration last month issued the emergency generator rules after eight residents of a sweltering Broward County nursing home died following Hurricane Irma. Six more residents died later after being evacuated.

Hurricane Irma knocked out the air conditioning at the nursing home, The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, which did not have a backup generator for the cooling system.

But nursing homes and assisted living facilities have objected to the emergency rules because they were only given 60 days to comply. That has led this week to facilities seeking the variances.

Florida law says that the “strict application of uniformly applicable rule requirements can lead to unreasonable, unfair, and unintended results” and, as a result, agencies are authorized to grant variances and waivers to rules that cause a substantial hardship.

To clarify the existing variance process, the Scott administration Thursday issued another emergency rule that, in part, laid out information the Agency for Health Care Administration wants providers to include in the requests for variances.

The changes, however, do not mean the governor is backing off his power policy, the administration says.

“It has no effect on the emergency generator rule and its enforcement. AHCA has made it clear that they will enforce this rule aggressively, and they will continue to do just that.” Scott spokesman McKinley Lewis said.

Long-term care facilities are seeking the variances because the Nov. 15 compliance deadline is nearing, and facilities that aren’t in compliance face steep penalties, including possible license revocation.

“They are working to comply,” Knapp said, but added that “there’s just a lot of issues involved in installing generators.”

Industry groups LeadingAge Florida, the Florida Assisted Living Association and Florida Argentum filed legal challenges to the validity of the emergency rules.

Attorneys spent a second day Friday in a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Garnett Chisenhall. The emergency rules require nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have enough power to keep ambient temperatures at 80 degrees for 96 hours.

Chisenhall has two weeks to issue an order.

Though the Agency for Health Care Administration has regulatory oversight of assisted living facilities, the Department of Elder Affairs is required to work with AHCA in drafting rules.

Catherine Ann Avery, bureau chief of elder rights for the Department of Elder Affairs, testified that she worked with the department’s general counsel on the emergency regulations.

But during cross-examination, attorney Amy W. Schrader, who represents Florida Argentum, referenced an email between the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Elder Affairs and noted that the majority of the rule language was proposed by the agency.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

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